Turkey’s Prime Minister on Saturday vowed to press ahead with a controversial plan to redevelop an Istanbul park, calling for an immediate end to the violent protests against the project that have spiralled into anti-government demonstrations.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan remained defiant in the face of the unrest, one of the biggest challenges Turkey’s Islamist-rooted leadership has faced in its decade in power.
On Saturday police fired tear gas at protesters gathering in Taksim Square, the epicentre of the demonstrations that have left dozens of people injured and have earned Turkey a rare rebuke from its ally Washington.
Protesters in turn hurled rocks and bottles at the police.
“I call on the protesters to stop their demonstrations immediately,” Erdogan said in a speech.
But what started as an outcry against a local development project has snowballed into widespread anger against what critics say is the government’s increasingly conservative and authoritarian agenda.
The unrest has spread to other cities across the country, with police on Saturday blocking a group of demonstrators from marching to parliament and the prime minister’s office in Ankara.